Skip to main content

Full text of "History And Human Relation"

See other formats


of literature—they may all of them have been wrong in
their actual statements for anything I care, but I think
they possessed what I mean by the right kind of feeling>
as historians. They realised that the grandest flights
of the human mind are conditioned by the nature of the
material universe in which the intellect has to work,
There may be no known limits to the potentialities of
the human mind, but so long as no instrument exists
except a tin-whistle only a limited kind of music will in
fact be composed, only a limited kind of music will in
fact be conceived. The writers I have just mentioned
seem better to me, therefore, than those other people
who at their worst talk as though the human mind just
decided to arise and*expand at the Renaissance. It is
these latter people who are doing their history in the
wrong universe and are not holding the story down to

Taking the credit side of the balance, therefore, we .
may say that in a certain sense a materialist interpretation
of history, precisely because it is so brown and earthy,
provides us with a healthy and realistic approach to the
past. It offers a corrective to that older view which
evaded fundamental problems by seeing history as a
field for the activity of disembodied ideas—ideas that
were treated as irreducible, that is to say, as being the
starting-point rather than the consequence of change.
A corrective of this sort is perhaps particularly useful
&r counteracting the fallacies inherent in the structure
of that history which the average Englishman holds in
his head. And when history is envisaged as being
/'fastened to the earth" it can be a more fructifying